Last week, I received a nasty surprise in the mail: an unexpected $150 medical bill. it was unexpected for a very good reason: the insurance company it ran through hasn’t been my plan for three years. when I switched to my new coverage, I made sure everything was paid in full, at least every bill I knew of.
I called the insurance company to see what the problem was and they explained that the overdue medical bill was from about three years ago; it just hadn’t been processed until now. i had so many questions how long does a medical provider have to bill you? Do you have to pay medical bills? How much time do you have to pay medical bills? And how would this affect my credit?
my bill is still up in the air. But if you’ve been in this same situation, or just forgot to pay a bill, here’s what you need to know about past due medical bills.
How long does a medical provider or hospital have to bill you?
You may be surprised to learn, as I was, that medical providers and hospitals can take a long time to send you a bill. rules and regulations vary by state, but are often allowed for multiple years.
For medical providers, the law “varies from state to state,” says Adria Gross, founder of Medwise Insurance Advocate. “in florida it is five years; new york is two years; texas is not longer than the first day of the 11th month; California is 12 months.” Gross recommends checking with her state to see what the limit is.
with hospitals, again varies between states. “Normally it’s within three to six years,” explains Brute. “[but] even after that time, the hospital can still try to collect.”
These time periods are called medical billing time limits, which is the time allowed to file a claim with the payer, either you or your insurance.
do you have to pay medical bills?
In short, yes. You must pay for any medical bills you incur, either directly or through your insurance. Depending on your plan, you may have to pay a copay, coinsurance, or the entire bill until you meet a deductible. You can also have a secondary policy to cover the additional costs you are responsible for. but, one way or another, you will have to pay for your medical care.
However, you do have a few options. talk to your medical provider to see if you qualify for financial assistance or if they can offer you a payment plan. they are likely to look at your income to make a decision, but you can help reduce the cost or spread it out so that it has less immediate impact. in some cases, they can identify that the invoice was sent in error.
Related: How to Pay Medical Bills Without Insurance
How long do you have to pay the medical bills?
The standard payment time for a medical bill, whether you receive it on time or not, is 30 days. That said, each provider or hospital is different, so be sure to check with them to see what payment term is allowed.
what happens if your doctor’s bill is due?
When your bill is past due, the provider may issue late fees and interest charges for a certain period of time to encourage you to pay. if you don’t, they’ll often give you one last warning (and one last chance to pay). then, if you still don’t pay, they have the option of turning the bill over to a debt collection agency.
When this happens, you will likely need to work it out with the collection agency as it will be out of the purview of the provider. just be aware that once a bill is sent to a collection agency, it can negatively affect your credit report.
related: medical debt statistics
what is a typical late fee on a medical bill?
The amount of late fees and interest on medical bills varies by provider. If you qualify for financial assistance or set up a payment plan, you generally are not required to pay more than the cost of the medical bill itself. but just because of a late bill, it’s up to them. Sabrina Watkins, Accreditation Manager at Choice of Therapy, rarely sees providers charge a late fee, but gross fees range from 1% to 1.5% of the total bill.
what is the process for paying past due medical bills?
Follow these steps to pay a past due medical bill, whether you missed payment or received the bill long after the date of service.
- check your records to see if you have already paid.
- call the provider to verify what the bill is about.
- follow up with the insurance company to see how much they paid.
- request supporting documentation to ensure the invoice is accurate.
- pay the bill, either in full or with a payment plan.
Essentially, you are trying to determine if there has been a medical billing error, which can sometimes be the cause of a bill that is too late.
“Mistakes happen about 10% of the time,” says Watkins. “If you discover an error or think one has occurred, you should first contact your insurance company and check your benefits and ask how that claim was processed and explain your balance. If the balance is different from what the provider’s office billed, contact them and let them know what your provider said you owe. You should always read your policy and know exactly how your benefits are paid and what you are expected to pay before they cover you at 100%. always read the provider’s financial policy.”
how do i remove a late medical bill from my credit report?
Before determining how to remove a late medical bill from your credit report, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations that govern how those bills get listed on your credit report in the first place. from now until June Beginning January 30, 2022, a hospital must wait six months after the date of service to submit a past due bill to the credit bureaus. but luckily for us, that rule is changing. gross says as of july. Starting January 1, 2022, that term will be extended to 12 months. so if you’ve had a bill past due for a year, only then can you send it to the credit bureaus.
Of course, that will leave some outstanding bills from the previous installment that will still show up on your credit report. Plus, even if you paid a bill, that blemish could still be hurting your credit. Gross and Watkins say all you have to do is call the credit bureau with proof of payment and it will be removed from your report, according to an agreement between major US credit bureaus. uu.